The Gardening Craze: The Popularity of Tilling the Earth Blooms among Blacks

By Holloway, Lynette R. | Ebony, August 2005 | Go to article overview

The Gardening Craze: The Popularity of Tilling the Earth Blooms among Blacks


Holloway, Lynette R., Ebony


NOT too long ago, Gwendolyn R. Richardson had to work hard to find compatriots who enjoy gardening as much as she does. She was usually alone as she selected flowers such as blue delphiniums, Asiatic lilies and white Shasta daisies to plant in the garden of her home in suburban Atlanta. Most of her friends were reluctant to dig in the earth and get their hands dirty.

Today she is not alone. Many of those reluctant friends have joined the ranks of gardeners, seeking her advice and accompanying her to nurseries. The dramatic about-face comes at a time when legions of African-Americans from Los Angeles to Chicago to Atlanta to Washington, D.C., are engaging in gardening. (Georgia in particular is a hotbed of gardening activity for African-American homeowners, in part, because of its widening Black middle-class and warm temperatures.)

Some housing experts and homeowners attribute the increased interest in gardening by African-Americans to a burgeoning Black middle-class, which has more leisure time and money to spend on hobbies. They also point influence of home repair, renovation, and gardening television shows, which have helped to spark consumer interest. The pastime appeals to both sexes, young and old, with many saying that gardening is a great way to relax and escape professional and family problems.

As a result of these varying influences, city dwellers are demonstrating that space limitations do not preclude them from planting, pruning and weeding makeshift gardens perched on rooftops, patios, and alongside windowsills and balconies, bringing a touch of color and life to otherwise dreary streetscapes. In cities like Chicago, community gardens bloom in once-neglected neighborhood yards and vacant lots.

Residents in rural areas and in the suburbs are also showing off their gardening skills, maintaining neatly manicured lawns, highlighted by dazzling perennial flowers like hydrangeas and peonies, and colorful annuals like begonias and geraniums, depending on where they live.

"Now everyone is interested in gardening and asking my advice," says Richardson, 52, a married mother of two who tends to her own sprawling garden surrounding her home in Norcross, Ga. Richardson, a gardener for about 25 years, even designed parts of her garden in the front and back yards and around her pool.

"I aim for a more asymmetrical look in my beds in the back[yard] because it's more of a freestyle for me," Richardson says. "Mixed borders appeal to me because my goal is to have a continuous flow of color. To achieve that, you have to mix perennials and annuals."

Stephanie V. Gowdy, an interior designer who tends to her garden outside her European duplex-style home in Alpharetta, Ga. …

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